The relationship between content marketers and graphic designers

Collaboration is key: the relationship between content marketers and graphic designers

The advertising and marketing industry is a collaborative world, and at the centre of this is the relationship between content marketers and graphic designers. Frequently working together, the two departments need to communicate in order to overcome problems that will inevitably arise during the creative process.

Copywriters and graphic designers have two distinct ways of thinking, particularly when it comes to creating content for their audience. While their thought processes may share some similarities – pragmatism; originality; creativity – there will be hurdles that need addressing at some point in many, if not all, projects.

It’s essential that these problems are overcome in order to successfully meet a brief, keeping the client and/or the audience happy. While both professions may have strong opinions about their work, collaboration is essential to effectively communicate and reach an agreeable outcome, where the copywriting and graphics complement one another seamlessly.

Why content marketers and designers must resolve their problems

Any piece of advertising or marketing material will likely comprise text and design. That’s why effective collaboration between content marketing and designers is key to producing an end product which is attuned to the needs of the target audience.

Each party should ultimately be working to the same KPIs for small business, and employing teamwork when doing so will mean there is a greater impact.

Nevertheless, each project will vary, so some degree of flexibility in approach between content marketers and designers is necessary.

For example, a financial website targeted toward older adults will likely have more copy and fewer visuals. However, to make the website more effective, a designer might include occasional visual content to explain complex topics.
On the other hand, an ad campaign aimed at young adults will have a dominant visual focus. But, you still might need elements of text written by a copywriter to get the full message across, even if it is incorporated into design work.

Even if graphic designers and content marketers don’t always work side by side, they will usually intersect at some point. In fact, 24.1% of marketers use a freelance designer to create visual content, and 30.4% use an in-house designer. Because of the high number of instances when marketers and designers must work together, they must be able to resolve any problems that come up so that the finished piece is on brief, as well as completed on time and within budget.

Problems to resolve

When copywriters work with designers, there are a number of problems that can arise. However, when these are identified, they can be swiftly resolved, leading to positive results that adhere to the brief and the successful completion of a project.

Frustrated woman on computer - Jerry Bunkers
Image credit: Jerry Bunkers

Visual vs. verbal thinking

The difference between graphic designers and copywriters/content marketers can be succinctly summarised via two modes of thought: visual versus verbal. For designers, visual thought processes take precedence. Briefs become realised through imagery. By contrast, copywriters approach briefs and projects verbally, taking a communicative approach as wordsmiths. The success of these modes of thought is based on alternative digital marketing metrics, which can lead to further disparity.

Consequently, achieving an outcome that satisfies both copywriter and designer can be challenging. For copywriters, text is likely to be most important, in order to effectively relay the necessary details and benefits of a product or service persuasively. Designers, on the other hand, will naturally prefer to convey a concept through imagery.

This does not mean that the two modes of thought cannot cooperate, though. Visual and verbal thinking can work in tandem to produce a balanced result.

“A good art director or copywriter can magnify the power of their ideas by overlapping their skill sets with the skill sets of the other,” said Michele Kamenar in a Speckyboy article. “To pit them against each other totally misses the point and can even compromise the strength of the idea they are trying to pitch.”

The key to tackling this issue is simple: communication. How much text is practical? Where could images work well? Are there certain details that would be too difficult to try and create as images, or is there content that would be particularly effective as an illustration? Is audience understanding achieved more easily via words for a particular section, or would it be simpler to use an image?

Infographics are a strong example of where these questions have been asked and implemented to produce strong results for both parties. As 65% of the population are visual learners, infographics appeal to a large audience, while breaking down copywriting into easily digestible chunks helps with information absorption. This is particularly effective for complex topics, especially those involving statistics.

The balance between visual and verbal is also dependent on the type of content involved. Blog posts will naturally be primarily verbal, with visual aids assisting understanding. Conversely, posts for social media are likely to grab readers through strong visuals, with copywriting clarifying certain areas. By working harmoniously, a balanced result can be easily achieved.

Visual vs. content knowledge

It’s a given that graphic designers and copywriters/content marketers have a sound understanding of their respective fields. However, they may only have an elementary understanding of the other’s profession, based on their collaborative work. This limits the design aspect of a brief to purely the designer, whereas the content aspect is restricted to the copywriter/content marketer.

Potential problems can arise precisely because of this. Even if both have their best intentions at heart in order to effectively meet the brief, making suggestions regarding work outside of their profession could be, at best, patronizing; at worst, a source of conflict that could cause deadline delays.

Respect is therefore integral to getting the job done. Again, communication is essential to combine the two areas of expertise – more importantly, the ability to listen. This doesn’t mean meeting their ideas with a wall of silence; it means making suggestions that have room for an open response and honest opinion. Statements such as “I think this would be better if…” or “I have an idea for…” invite discussion, as opposed to announcing ideas with a command, such as “We should…”. Teamwork is of paramount importance.

Deadlines

The demands of client work dictate the length of time designers and copywriters can commit to a brief. This can become particularly pressurised when deadlines overrun, or even when they’re shortened, as indicated by the command of “I need this right now” from a colleague.

All content production takes time. Both graphic designers and copywriters need a period to jot down and play around with ideas before committing to one route and doing the appropriate research, content creation, edit(s) and review.

Image credit: Daniel Novta, 'tictac'
Image credit: Daniel Novta

According to freelance graphic designer Janie Kliever, some of the worst things someone can say to a creative include “Can you have this done by tomorrow?” and “Can I get you to do something really quick?”. More often than not, a designer/copywriter will have a packed schedule where they need to meet multiple briefs per week. It’s essential that other agency roles, such as content strategists, respect the timescale needed to do something “really quick” – just as graphic designers and copywriters need to appreciate that the combination of their respective ideas takes time.

With this in mind, setting estimates is an important way to gauge content creation. If a designer estimates that an infographic will take them four hours, the copywriter needs to give them space to commit to this project, and contribute their opinion afterwards, when the environment is less pressured. Similarly, if a copywriter establishes that developing slogans is going to take them an hour for the initial brainstorm, the designer needs to be patient before weighing in on the brand/company in question. Naturally, different forms of content are going to require different time allocations, so this needs to be borne in mind.

“Designers are good at giving estimates and will let you know how much time they need if you ask,” Kliever said in an article. The same is true for copywriters. It’s a case of discussion, awareness and respect for the other’s work process. Key to this is being reasonable with expectations – schedules can’t simply be opened up for one request. If it’s going to take a copywriter two weeks to develop an amount of content, then the designer must work round that timescale, and vice versa.

At particularly busy times of the year, outsourcing may be a solution. Online copywriting services can facilitate this, giving an internal copywriter the time to commence with other projects, and designers time to receive the copy they need to progress with the visuals.

Content creation ability

Naturally, all designers and copywriters/content marketers have their limitations in terms of ability. Making the relevant professionals aware of this is essential, as if a copywriter has an idea as to how the visuals should look, then this needs to be discussed in collaboration with the design department to ensure it’s feasible and not too time-consuming.

Similarly, if a copywriter has a heavy workload, the designer needs to ensure that they can create content that fits the brief without being dependent on the copywriting department. This is also true the opposite way round. Being open to compromise is essential: the end result may not be exactly as initially imagined by the copywriter and/or graphic designer, but if it fits the brief in question and the content is created within the timescale available to a high enough standard, then this needs to be accepted by both parties in order to progress with further projects.

Finding solutions

While there may be periods where communication between copywriters/content marketers is difficult, the goal is an end result that meets the brief to the standards the agency is looking for, and within the agreed deadline. Despite the alternate thought processes and modes of content creation, copywriting and design are intrinsically linked, and collaboration and open, clear communication can comfortably achieve an excellent result.

By keeping compromise in mind, as well as realistic expectations and idea discussion, copywriters and designers can form an effective, strong working relationship.

 

Author Bio: Kaylee Riley is a content writer for Patriot Software, LLC and Top Echelon, LLC. Kaylee writes about payroll, accounting, recruiting, and other small business topics.

Image credit: Rawpixel.com, ‘Man and woman using electronic device’

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